Cucumber Mint “Shrub” Soda

Cool refreshing homemade cucumber mint vinegar-based soda, tangy and sweet! Perfect for a hot summer day.
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Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Have you ever heard of a “shrub” (as in drink, not bush)? It’s basically a vinegar-based fruity cordial or soda. The acidity of the vinegar provides tang and intensifies the flavor of the fruit in much the same way that the acidity of lemons balances the sugar in lemonade, and makes lemonade taste so lemony.

Vinegar allows you to make a soda with fruit, without it being cloyingly sweet.

With this cucumber mint soda, first you make a simple syrup with water, sugar, and vinegar. Then you infuse the vinegar simple syrup with fresh mint leaves. To make the soda, you pour the syrup over ice and chopped cucumber and add seltzer water. Easy!

Cucumber Mint Soda

If you are not familiar with shrubs, the whole vinegar concept can seem a bit weird, but believe me, it works!

I made a batch of this the other day for some friends and they’ve all been begging for the recipe. It’s wonderfully refreshing on a hot summer day. (We may have a few of those left this summer, right?)

Many thanks to Payam Fardanesh of Silk Road Soda for introducing me to the whole concept of vinegar-based sodas, and in particular this cucumber mint combo. It’s my favorite flavor of all of his sodas, and is a classic Persian drink.

This particular recipe is adapted from a recipe for Sekanjebeen, a mint vinegar syrup, from the Persian cookbook Pomegranates and Roses, by Ariana Bundy.

Cucumber Mint “Shrub” Soda Recipe

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  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 30 minutes
  • Cooling time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: Makes 2-3 cups of syrup, enough for 2 quarts of soda

Ingredients

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/3 cup white wine vinegar (can sub plain white vinegar)
  • A handful of mint leaves
  • 1 cucumber, peeled if the peels are thick, chopped
  • Seltzer water

Method

1 Boil water and sugar: Put 4 cups of water and the sugar into a saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil and boil uncovered for 10 minutes.

2 Add white vinegar, boil and reduce: Add the white vinegar and boil uncovered for 15 more minutes, until the liquid has reduced to a couple of cups. (Now you have vinegar simple syrup.)

3 Add mint leaves: Stir in the mint leaves and boil for a minute more. Remove from heat and let cool for 30 minutes.

4 Strain mint leaves, chill syrup: Strain out the mint leaves and pour the vinegar simple syrup into a jar. Chill until ready to make soda.

5 Mix with cucumber, ice, soda water: Fill a glass with ice cubes and a several pieces of cucumber. Add the syrup and soda water in about a 1:3 ratio, syrup to water, or whatever works for you to achieve the level of intensity you want for your soda. Stir with a spoon.

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Links:

How to Make Shrubs without a Recipe from Food52

Pomegranates and Roses - beautiful Persian cookbook by author Ariana Bundy

Cucumber Mint Soda

2 Comments

  1. Sandy S

    Wow! This is all news to me. Will look forward to playing with it! I have always loved the coolness of cucumbers and that lovely fresh feeling they leave when applied to my skin. Seems to me, that I remember a buttermilk drink that also includes cucumbers. Perhaps someone knows of it? Thanks Anna (above) for mentioning that a shrub might be soothing to the tummy as well, for I find that hot days can up-set my stomach. It certainly sounds refreshing!

  2. Anna

    That funny, I never knew it had a western name. This is an ancient drink, called sekanjabin in the Middle East, you can make it without the mint too. It’s wonderful for drinking when it’s hot, but you can also use it for stomach aches, it helps with nausea much like ginger, and has been used medicinally for thousands of years. It’s one of our favorite summer drinks.

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